United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
E. Conrad United States District Judge
Elisha Ornes, proceeding pro se, brings this action against
defendants Jeremy Mason, Marlena Seale, the Virginia
Department of Child Support ("VDCS"), Does 1 to
100, and Dennis Nagel, seeking relief related to a dispute
over child support. This matter is currently before the court
on the plaintiffs motion for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. Although the court grants the motion, for the
following reasons, the court concludes that the complaint
must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(h)(3) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure and 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
August 18, 2017, Ornes commenced this action by filing two
documents, which the court construed as a motion for leave to
proceed in forma pauperis and a complaint. In the
complaint, Ornes identifies herself as a prosecutor and sets
forth 16 causes of action against various defendants related
to her dispute with Mason regarding the paternity and
financial support of her child. The causes of action include
demands for an audit of Mason's financial records and a
drug test of Mason, a claim for breach of a court-ordered
child support contract, and purported criminal charges
against Mason, including child endangerment, trespass,
harassment, and identity theft and fraud. Ornes also requests
a permanent protective and restraining order and a cease and
desist order against Mason. Finally, Ornes requests
compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act if Mason
intends to have an attorney respond to her complaint. The
complaint does not specify which, if any, of the causes of
action are alleged against Seale, the VDCS, Does 1 to 100, or
Nagel. Ornes seeks monetary damages, court costs, and a
declaratory judgment increasing the amount of child support
and requiring payment of past due child support and medical
has also filed a document titled, "Writ of Error Qua
Corum Nobis Residant" and a "Notice to Court and
All Other Officers." In these filings, Ornes claims that
the Clerk improperly docketed her first filing as a motion
for leave to proceed in forma pauperis as opposed to
an order granting her leave to proceed in forma
pauperis as she had requested. She also requests a
"Certified Copy of Oath and Bond from Judge Glen E.
Conrad." Docket No. 6.
to Rule 12(h)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the
court "must dismiss" an action "[i]f the court
determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). "[Q]uestions
of subject-matter jurisdiction may be raised at any point
during the proceedings and may (or, more precisely, must) be
raised sua sponte by the court." Brickwood
Contractors, Inc. v. Datanet Eng'g, Inc., 369 F.3d
385, 390 (4th Cir. 2004).
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), which governs in forma
pauperis proceedings, the court has "a duty to
screen initial filings." Eriline Co. v.
Johnson, 440 F.3d 648, 656-57 (4th Cir. 2006). The court
must dismiss a case "at any time" if the court
determines that the complaint "fails to state a claim on
which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). In reviewing a complaint for dismissal
under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), the court applies the same
standard used to review a motion for dismissal under Rule
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
De'Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 633 (4th
Cir. 2003). Although a pro se plaintiffs pleadings are
liberally construed, the complaint must contain sufficient
factual allegations "to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level" and to "state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007).
Federal courts have limited jurisdiction and "possess
only that power authorized by Constitution and statute."
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S.
375, 377 (1994). Generally, federal district courts are
authorized to hear cases arising out of federal law or
involving diverse parties and a specified amount in
controversy. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332. Under the
well-pleaded complaint rule, "a suit arises under
federal law only when the plaintiffs statement of his own
cause of action shows that it is based upon federal
law." Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49, 60
(2009) (alterations and internal quotation marks omitted).
reviewed the complaint, the court is constrained to conclude
that it must be dismissed for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. Ornes has failed to identify any violation of
federal law which might support the exercise of federal
question jurisdiction under § 1331. Although Ornes
refers to the Foreign Agents Registration Act, she
"ha[s] not asserted any coherent federal claim, much
less affirmatively alleged one." Taylor v. Bank of
Am., No. 7:12CVQ0010, 2012 WL 871049, at *2 (W.D. Va.
Mar. 14, 2012). Because the complaint "on its face makes
no recognizable effort to assert a federal right to relief
under the act or otherwise, the complaint does not invoke
federal question jurisdiction. Id; see
Vaden, 556 U.S. at 60. Nor has Ornes demonstrated
that complete diversity of citizenship exists between the
parties as required by § 1332. To the contrary, the
complaint indicates that the plaintiff, and at the very
least, the VDCS, are residents of Virginia. Thus, both
federal question and diversity jurisdiction are lacking.
under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine,  federal district
courts do not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear
"cases brought by state-court losers complaining of
injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the
district court proceedings commenced and inviting district
court review and rejection of those judgments."
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544
U.S. 280, 284 (2005). Accordingly, to the extent Ornes seeks
review of, or relief from, a child support order, her
complaint is subject to dismissal under Rule 12(h)(3).
complaint is also subject to dismissal under §
1915(e)(2). Liberally construing the complaint, it fails to
allege sufficient facts to state a plausible claim for relief
against any defendant. The complaint does not identify any
cause of action under which Ornes seeks relief against four
of the defendants, Seale, the VDCS, Does 1 to 100, and Nagel.
The complaint also does not provide any legal authority
entitling her to relief. As described above, the complaint
refers to the Foreign Agents Registration Act, but does not
set forth the legal basis for a claim under that act.
Finally, Ornes purports to operate as a prosecutor bringing
criminal charges, but does not have the authority of a
prosecutor. Nor does she cite the criminal statutes upon
which she relies to demonstrate that any of those statutes
provide a private right of action. See Doe v.